“Elections experts, law professors, former President of National Association of Secretaries of State urge Congress to pass state vote counting deadline extension to avoid crisis”

Release:

With just a month to go before the November 3rd election, a group of 40  experts on elections and democracy are imploring Congress to support a bill that would give  states more time to tally election results.  

A letter the group sent to Senate and House members expresses concern that delays due to  close races, legal disputes, and the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots expected during  the Covid-19 pandemic could prevent states from being able to fully and accurately count votes  by current deadlines, resulting in a constitutional crisis.  

“In the event of one or more protracted disputes at the state level, the addition of 24 days to the  deadline for determining electors could spare the country a debilitating national political crisis,”  the letter notes. “Otherwise, it may fall to the new Congress (on January 6) to determine the  winner of the electoral votes of one or more states, under the troublingly ambiguous provisions  of the Electoral Count Act of 1887. This could produce a grave national controversy just two  weeks before the inauguration.” 

The group, which includes research, legal, and policy expertise on election administration  across a wide range of institutional affiliations, is specifically asking Congress to back a bill  Senator Marco Rubio introduced on August 6th, which would extend the federal safe harbor  deadline from December 8, 2020 to January 1, 2021, and the Electoral College vote from  December 14 to January 2. 

The experts hope their letter can help generate newfound bipartisan support for the measure,  noting, “the extension of these deadlines would not favor or prejudice either political party,” and  that “as experts who study the election process, the resolution of disputed elections, and similar  matters, we believe Senator Rubio’s bill is good insurance for the integrity of the election and  ought to be adopted.” 

If the letter is successful in spurring enactment of the measure, states would gain valuable time  to resolve any election disputes prior to Inauguration Day.  

The full letter is attached below.  

I broke my usual rule not to sign mass letters for this one. It’s that important.

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“To Get Out the Youth Vote, Start with a Stamp”

The following is a guest post from Charlotte Blatt and Kate Hamilton, J.D. candidates at Yale Law School:

Young voters get a bad rap. In 2018, voters ages 18-29 made up just 13% of the electorate despite comprising 22% of the voting-age population – a poor turnout but an improvement upon prior elections. Yet young people are excited to participate this November. An August NextGen America/Global Strategy Group poll found that 77% of 18 to 35-year-olds from battleground states “definitely will vote” in the election, up from 70% just a month earlier. However, among other challenges sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic, barriers to young voter participation have reached new heights, particularly regarding the increasing reliance on vote-by-mail.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, civic participation groups have urged widespread expansion of vote-by-mail, and many states have heeded the call. While vote-by-mail is certainly attractive from a public health perspective, it is no panacea for democracy. Indeed, civil rights groups have warned that overreliance on vote-by-mail could have the effect of “inadvertently disenfranchis[ing]” Black, disabled, elderly and Native American voters. In addition to these recognized possibilities, the unprecedented use of mail ballots also runs the risk of further disenfranchising youth voters by multiplying the impediments young people must overcome to cast a ballot, increasing their chances of casting a “lost” or uncounted ballot.

            Youth voters face significant barriers to voting by mail. Recent polling found that “more than half of voters under the age of 35 say they don’t have the resources or knowledge they need to vote by mail in November,” and there is reason to believe that this resource deficit is unevenly distributed across race, educational attainment, and income. In 2016, young people without college experience were least likely to vote-by-mail, and youth of color without college experience were even less likely to vote-by-mail than their white counterparts. These historical disparities suggest that heavy reliance on mail voting this November will require addressing the hurdles facing young people, particularly young people of color.

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Washington Post Quotes Republicans “Privately Expressing Alarm” About Trump Debate Comments: But Is the Alarm Over the Baseless Voter Fraud Claims and Nod to White Supremacy or GOP Electoral Chances?

Ambiguous WaPo:

The aftermath of the first presidential debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden triggered a reckoning among Republicans on Wednesday about the incumbent’s incendiary remarks on white supremacy and his baseless claims of electoral fraud, with GOP officials privately expressing alarm about the fallout with key voters as the president’s allies argued that he electrified his core supporters.

Biden, who launched a train tour through the battlegrounds of Ohio and Pennsylvania, continued to pitch himself as a champion of working-class voters and saw Democrats rally around what they view as Trump’s threat to American democracy.

But few Republicans voiced outrage in the wake of Trump’s norm-shattering spectacle in Cleveland on Tuesday, including his statement that the extremist Proud Boys, a male-only far-right group known for street violence, should “stand back and stand by.” Responses ranged from silence to muted criticism, reflecting how the GOP remains convinced that an alliance with Trump and his voters is crucial for its survival.

But hewing too close to him is also seen as a mistake by some Republicans, particularly for those who wish to court moderates and independent voters.

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“Federal judge refuses to stop mail-in voting in Montana, blasts Trump-backed ‘fiction’ of massive voter fraud”

CNN:

A federal judge in Montana rejected the Trump campaign’s effort to stop an expansion of mail-in voting in the state.

The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee filed the lawsuit earlier this month after Democratic Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a directive allowing all counties in the state to switch to an essentially all-mail system for the 2020 election. But District Judge Dana Christensen ruled against Trump’s campaign on Wednesday and rejected its request to block the new voting rules.

In his ruling, the judge blasted the Trump-backed “fiction” that there is widespread voter fraud in US elections.

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Brendan Nyhan with the Question of the Day

Brendan in WaPo:

The question now is whether the media will learn anything from the debate experience. Will they accurately describe Trump’s attacks on the election as dangerous and anti-democratic? Or will they run faux-neutral headlines like “Pure chaos on election night” if he says the vote is being stolen and tries to declare victory before all the votes are counted? The stakes could not be higher.

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5th Circuit Unsurprisingly Stops District Court Order That Would Have Reimposed Straight Ticket Voting in November’s Election in Texas

Here’s the order.

When the district court issued its order I was quite surprised there was no focus on trying to implement this so close to the election. As the appeals court wrote: “Finally, given that thousands of ballots without straight-ticket voting have already been mailed in accordance with a law that was passed three years ago and the immense difficulty described by the Secretary of managing an election with different sets of ballots for in-person and mail-in voting, the public interest weighs heavily in favor of issuing the stay.”

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“When Your Job Is to Make Sure Nov. 3 Isn’t a Disaster”

NYT:

President Trump’s proclamations at Tuesday’s debate that there was no way the presidential election could be conducted without fraud, as well as frequent tweets along those lines, aren’t helping.

“I have never been so upset about a sitting president attempting to undermine our elections in this way,” said Denise Merrill, the Connecticut secretary of state and a Democrat, who spent Wednesday morning replaying Mr. Trump’s remarks from the debate stage out of disbelief. “What he’s really doing is impugning the work of thousands of elections officials across the country — all those people in the towns and counties busy trying to maintain faith in the elections process.”

In search of solidarity, some secretaries of state, across party lines, have joined a group text where they share tips to help one another overcome election kinks.

“There are a lot of OMGs,” Ms. Merrill said.

None of the officials want to be known as the 2020 version of Katherine Harris, who as Florida’s Republican secretary of state unexpectedly gained the attention of an anxious nation awaiting a winner in the 2000 election and became the butt of “Saturday Night Live” jokes.

In the current climate, many officials are reaching for Boy Scout-like earnestness.

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“Facebook tightens political ad bans as US election nears”

AP:

With just over a month to go before Americans head en masse to the polls in an extraordinarily contentious election, Facebook is expanding restrictions on political advertising, including new bans on messages claiming widespread voter fraud.

New prohibitions laid out in a blog post come days after President Donald Trump raised the prospect of mass fraud in the vote-by-mail process during a debate with Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Banned ads “would include calling a method of voting inherently fraudulent or corrupt, or using isolated incidents of voter fraud to delegitimize the result of an election,” Rob Leathern, Facebook’s director of product management, tweeted. The changes apply to Facebook and Instagram and are effective immediately, he said.

The ban includes ads that call an election into question because the result isn’t determined on the final day of voting. There is a good chance U.S. election results will require additional time this year because of expanded mail-in ballots due to the pandemic.

Also banned are advertisements portraying voting or census participation as meaningless and advising people not to take part.

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“Court reopens door to ‘dark money’ in Arizona political races”

Tuscon.com:

The Arizona Court of Appeals has reinstated a 2017 law that opens the door to “dark money” contributions to political races.

The judges said Tuesday that the Republican-controlled Legislature was within its rights to decide that any group the Internal Revenue Service classified as nonprofit does not have to disclose its donors, even if it uses the money to finance independent expenditures to elect or defeat candidates.

That legislative change overturned the ability of the voter-created Citizens Clean Elections Commission to determine whether the group was really a charity or only a thinly disguised political action committee. PACs have to disclose donors.

Tuesday’s unanimous ruling also allows political parties to spend unlimited dollars on behalf of their candidates without disclosure.

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“Voting lawsuits pile up across US as election approaches”

AP:

They’ve been fighting in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania over the cutoff date for counting mailed ballots, and in North Carolina over witness requirements. Ohio is grappling with drop boxes for ballots as Texas faces a court challenge over extra days of early voting.

Measuring the anxiety over the November election is as simple as tallying the hundreds of voting-related lawsuits filed across the country in recent months. The cases concern the fundamentals of the American voting process, including how ballots are cast and counted, during an election made unique by the coronavirus pandemic and by a president who refuses to commit to accepting the results.

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“Exclusive: Russian operation masqueraded as right-wing news site to target U.S. voters – sources”

Reuters:

The Russian group accused of meddling in the 2016 U.S. election has posed as an independent news outlet to target right-wing social media users ahead of this year’s vote, two people familiar with an FBI probe into the activity told Reuters.

The latest operation centred around a pseudo media organisation called the Newsroom for American and European Based Citizens (NAEBC), which was run by people associated with the St. Petersburg-based Internet Research Agency, the sources said.

U.S. prosecutors say the agency played a key role in Russian efforts to sway the 2016 election in favour of President Donald Trump, and Facebook and Twitter exposed a fake left-wing media outlet in September which they said was run by people connected to the organisation.

NAEBC and its activity, which have not been previously reported, now show that Russian attempts to influence U.S. voters ahead of the 2020 election have targeted both sides of the political divide.

The website predominantly focused on U.S. politics and current events, republishing articles from conservative media and paying real Americans to write about politically-sensitive issues. A network of accounts posing as editors and journalists then promoted the articles on social media sites favoured by right-wing users.

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“Uncivil War”

Announcement:

In the lead-up to the 2020 election, Uncivil War, a new documentary from the Bertelsmann Foundation, explores three factors eroding the US electoral system: gerrymandering, voter suppression, and disinformation. The film unravels a web of threats to American elections, separates truth from fiction, and exposes a hidden war against democracy itself.

The US Premiere of Uncivil War will be free and online, October 8, 6:30-9:15pm ET.  You can register here.

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“Trump Renews Fears of Voter Intimidation as G.O.P. Poll Watchers Mobilize”

NYT:

The group of Trump campaign officials came carrying cellphone cameras and a determination to help the president’s re-election efforts in Philadelphia. But they were asked to leave the city’s newly opened satellite election offices on Tuesday after being told local election laws did not permit them to monitor voters coming to request and complete absentee ballots.

On social media, right-wing news sites and in the presidential debate on Tuesday night, President Trump and his campaign quickly suggested nefarious intent in the actions of local election officials, with the president claiming during the debate that “bad things happen in Philadelphia” and urging his supporters everywhere to “go into the polls and watch very carefully.”

The dark and baseless descriptions of the voting process in Philadelphia were the latest broad-brush attempt by the Trump campaign to undermine confidence in this year’s election, a message delivered with an ominous edge at the debate when he advised an extremist group, the Proud Boys, to “stand back and stand by” in his remarks about the election.

The sinister insinuations and calls for his followers to monitor voting activity are clear. What’s less apparent is how the Trump campaign wants this to play out….

The Republican establishment has ample reason to want to avoid accusations of voter intimidation. In the early 1980s, after the party sent hired workers sporting armbands reading “National Ballot Security Task Force” into Black and Latino precincts in New Jersey to challenge voters’ eligibility, it operated under an increasingly strict federal consent decree that eventually barred it from conducting or advising on any sort of “ballot security” activities — even by unpaid volunteers.

Richard L. Hasen, an election-law expert at the University of California, Irvine, said that because of the president’s influence, the Republican National Committee was at risk of being associated with the same kind of behavior that led to the consent decree. He noted that the 2017 federal court ruling lifting the consent decree stated in a footnote that Mr. Trump had clearly encouraged voter suppression during the 2016 presidential campaign, but that his behavior could not be tied to the national party.

Now, however, he effectively controls the party.

“While I was worried about Trump norm-breaking in 2016, it is far worse for a sitting president to be undermining the integrity of the election,” Dr. Hasen said. “Whether Trump means the things he says or not, he’s convincing his most ardent supporters that the only way he loses is if the Democrats cheat.”

He added, “That’s profoundly destabilizing and scary.”

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“Memory sticks used to program Philly’s voting machines were stolen from elections warehouse”

Philly Inquirer:

A laptop and several memory sticks used to program Philadelphia’s voting machines were stolen from a city warehouse in East Falls, officials confirmed Wednesday, setting off a scramble to investigate and to ensure the machines had not been compromised.

Though it remains unclear when exactly equipment was stolen, sources briefed on the investigation said it vanished this week. The laptop and USB drives — the only items believed to have been taken — belonged to an on-site employee for the company that supplies the machines.

City officials vowed Wednesday that the theft would not disrupt voting on Nov. 3.

“We are confident,” said Nick Custodio, a deputy to Lisa Deeley, chair of the city commissioners, who oversee elections, “that this incident will not in any way compromise the integrity of the election.”

But behind the scenes, they fretted about how President Donald Trump and his allies might use the news to cast doubt on the integrity of the city’s elections in light of false claims and conspiracy theories he cited during Tuesday’s presidential debate.

The commissioners initially refused to confirm the theft or that an investigation had been opened. They only did so after The Inquirer informed them it would be reporting the incident based on sources who were not authorized to publicly discuss it.

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“Republicans Are Slowing Down Mailed-In Vote Counts in Key Swing States”

Washington Monthly:

The bad news is that Republican officials in three swing states, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, are blocking legislation that could allow for the early processing of absentee ballots—purposefully making it take longer to get the election results. In other words, they are engineering the absentee vote counting delays that Trump is already planning to complain about and sue over.

In each of these states, current law allows absentee vote processing to begin either on or after Election Day. Over the last several months, county clerks and advocates have pushed for that period to be extended, all to enable elections officials to begin processing the votes more quickly, so there is less of a delay in announcing the outcome to the public. But in each of those states, such bills have been blocked by Republican leadership in the state houses. All of those states have a Democratic governor and a Democratic secretary of state pushing for such bills, but Republicans control the legislatures. In Pennsylvania, legislation was introduced in June to begin processing and counting ballots early, but it went nowhere. In Wisconsin, Democrats introduced a bill in May to begin processing ballots early, but not tabulate them until after the polls closed. That, too, faced GOP resistance.

In Michigan, there has been slightly more progress. After months of advocacy by county clerks, including Republicans, to give elections officials the ability to get a head start on processing absentee ballots, the Michigan state house passed a bill last week after sitting on it for months to extend early absentee vote processing—by just one day. That’s better than nothing, but it’s hardly enough time to meet the needs of elections officials.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson told me it only gives elections officials 10 hours to start processing ballots on Election Day, which includes additional administrative work. Some clerks have estimated that they would only net three hours that day for processing ballots.

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“Supreme Court Expedites Review of Trump Appeal Over Census Count”

Greg Stohr:

The U.S. Supreme Court put a clash over undocumented immigrants and the census on a fast track, granting a request by President Donald Trump’s administration to expedite handling of his appeal.

Trump is trying to exclude undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count, which will determine the allocation of congressional seats and federal dollars. A three-judge federal panel ruled on Sept. 10 that Congress didn’t give the president authority to do that.

The Supreme Court ordered opponents of Trump’s plan to file a brief by Oct. 7. That would let the justices determine in October whether they will hear arguments. Trump is seeking an argument session in late November or early December.

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“Court Permanently Strikes Down Montana Law That Restricts Native Voting Rights”

Native American Rights Fund:

On September 25, 2020, a Montana court permanently struck down a state law that severely restricted the right to vote for indigenous people living on rural reservations.

Western Native Voice v. Stapleton, filed in March of this year by Native American Rights Fund , the American Civil Liberties Union, and ACLU of Montana, challenged the so-called Montana Ballot Interference Prevention Act (BIPA), a law that imposed severe restrictions on ballot collection efforts that are critical to Native American voters living on rural reservations.

The law set an arbitrary limit on the number of ballots an individual could collect and also restricted the categories of individuals who were permitted to collect ballots. These limitations were intended to suppress turnout on rural reservations, where geographic and socioeconomic barriers to voting make ballot collection even more critical.

Update:

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“Federal Court Rules Alabama Must Take Steps to Better Protect Voters During COVID-19 Pandemic”

Release:

A federal court issued a decision today that will help protect the health and right to vote of medically vulnerable Alabamians.

The ruling in People First of Alabama v. Merrill means Alabama voters will not need a witness or notary to vote by mail if they have an underlying medical condition and provide a statement. 

The decision also stipulates that voters 65 and older with an underlying medical condition won’t need an ID so long as they provide other identifying information such as their driver’s license number or last four digits of their Social Security number. In addition, it lifts Secretary John Merrill’s ban on curbside voting. 

The lawsuit was filed by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), Southern Poverty Law Center, American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Alabama, and Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program.

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Republicans in Pennsylvania House Push Resolution That Would Give House Committee Investigatory and Subpoena Power on Election Issues; Potential Prelude to Use of Powers to Appoint Presidential Electors?

You can find the proposed resolution at this link. Governor Wolf (a Democrat) has condemned the move (via Ryan Grim).

I’m not saying that the Pa legislature would use the power, but this is a first step toward trying to potentially appoint electors directly.

Keep an eye on this.

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“The growing concerns over Trump and a peaceful transition, explained; It’s unlikely that Trump will steal the election. But unlikely doesn’t mean impossible.”

Zack Beauchamp for Vox:

The general sense among experts on American politics is that the nightmare scenarios — an outright stolen election, each party attempting to inaugurate a different president on January 20, or clashes between armed supporters of each side — are only plausible if the election is close, and even then, they remain unlikely.

“Unless there’s a catastrophic failure on Election Day … then the election only goes into overtime if the election is close enough to litigate in a state that is essential to the Electoral College outcome. That’s unlikely if the polls are even close to accurate,” Rick Hasen, a law professor at the University of California Irvine and author of the recent book Election Meltdown, tells me.

But Trump’s 2016 win and the emergence of a pandemic earlier this year were both “unlikely,” too. If we’ve learned anything from the past few years of politics, it’s that this kind of low-probability, high-impact event can happen — and needs to be planned for if the worst is to be avoided.

“In my mind, the worst-case scenario is the possibility of dueling inaugurations … a situation where we’re facing the end of the republic as we know,” says Franita Tolson, an election law expert at the University of Southern California.

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“The Attack on Voting; How President Trump’s false claim of voter fraud is being used to disenfranchise Americans.”

Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times Magazine:

The strategy was now in full view: Flood every state, every television news network, every newspaper and news feed with manufactured evidence of fraud to suppress Democratic votes before Election Day — and to knock them out of state-by-state tallies in the courts and counting rooms afterward. In September, Trump’s power to affect the outcome reached a new level when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died and Mitch McConnell lined up the votes for a fast confirmation of the Supreme Court’s sixth conservative member. Increasingly, longtime election experts were seeing “a pathway for something other than voters choosing the next president,” said Richard Hasen, a professor at the University of California-Irvine School of Law who writes the widely read Election Law Blog.

The movement to convince the country that voter fraud is a present danger to democracy has itself become a present danger to democracy. It has melded fully into the president’s re-election campaign. The argument is now that the only way Trump can lose this election is through sweeping voter fraud that benefits his opponent; any outcome in which he doesn’t win, therefore, can be considered illegitimate. This, Trump says, is why he refuses to commit to a peaceful transfer of power: Only fraud can beat him, and fraud is everywhere.

But unlike four years ago, when his campaign laid the groundwork for a similar argument, Trump is now aiming the full force of the United States government — its lawyers, its Postal Service, even its armed officers — at a false threat that has been used to disenfranchise American citizens since the darkest days of the republic. He is doing it in the service of one goal: to maintain his own grip on power.

“When you see them cheating with those ballots, all of those unsolicited ballots, those millions of ballots, you see them, any time you do, report them to the authorities,” he said at a late September election rally in Toledo, Ohio. “The authorities are waiting, and watching.”

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Charles Zelden on Florida 2000: “Guest opinion: Legislatures picking electors to the Electoral College: It could not only happen, it almost did”

Op-ed:

On December 7, 2000, in the midst of the Florida recount crisis, Florida Senate President John McKay and Speaker of the House Tom Feeney announced that, “the Legislature would choose the electors, as permitted by the U.S. Constitution, if the court disputes were continuing and there was not yet ‘finality’ on December 12.”  When the Florida Supreme Court announced a statewide recount order, the stage was set for a confrontation. So long as there was a chance for the December 12 “safe harbor” to be violated, the Republican legislators were set to act.

On Tuesday, December 12th, the Florida House did just this, voting in George W. Bush’s electors as the state’s official slate to the Electoral College. The next day the Florida Senate was prepared to do the same. It was at this point that the U.S. Supreme Court made the whole matter largely moot by issuing its ruling in Bush v. Gore.  With Gore’s quick concession, the need for the Florida Senate to act disappeared.

And check out Zelden on this podcast, talking about the third edition of his Bush v. Gore book.

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“Record $13 Billion Raised for 2020 Elections Spurs Ad Avalanche”

Bloomberg Government:

The 2020 election has generated a record $13.3 billion in federal campaign contributions, funding a barrage of political advertising that strategists say risks blurring candidate messaging.

The unprecedented outpouring of campaign cash raised through Sept. 28 is more than 75% above what was donated during the same period in the 2016 election, according to a cumulative total of disclosure reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. It comes amid a high-stakes fight for control of the White House and the Senate that has been intensified by the battle over the replacement of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Support for and opposition to President Donald Trump is driving both small-dollar donors enabled by the internet and big donors empowered through a largely deregulated campaign finance system, said Sarah Bryner, a campaign finance researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics. The donors seem unfazed by the pandemic and economic downturn, Bryner said in a phone interview.

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“In 2020 Election, Florida Felon Voting Limits Could Sway State Outcome”

Wall Street Journal:

New data from researchers at Georgetown University Law Center shows the law could mean a large share of registered voters with felony records still face hurdles. The researchers identified about 14,000 people within this group who have registered to vote since the end of 2018, and among them at least 9,700, or 69%, still owed money, according to a Journal analysis of the researcher’s data.

Criminal-justice advocates sued the state and argued that adding a requirement to pay legal and financial obligations, like fees and court costs, were an illegal barrier to the ballot box. They won a favorable U.S. District Court ruling in May, but a federal appeals court ruling this month reversed that decision.

These would-be voters, who likely number in the hundreds of thousands, have faced difficulties in accurately figuring out what they owe with the registration deadline looming on Monday, advocates say.

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“Tuesday’s Debate Made Clear the Gravest Threat to the Election: The President Himself”

NYT:

President Trump’s angry insistence in the last minutes of Tuesday’s debate that there was no way the presidential election could be conducted without fraud amounted to an extraordinary declaration by a sitting American president that he would try to throw any outcome into the courts, Congress or the streets if he was not re-elected.

His comments came after four years of debate about the possibility of foreign interference in the 2020 election and how to counter such disruptions. But they were a stark reminder that the most direct threat to the electoral process now comes from the president of the United States himself.

His unwillingness to say he would abide by the result, and his disinformation campaign about the integrity of the American electoral system, went beyond anything President Vladimir V. Putin could have imagined. All Mr. Putin has to do now is amplify the president’s message, which the Russian leader has already begun to do.

Everything Mr. Trump said in his face-off with Joseph Biden Jr. he had already delivered in recent weeks, in tweets and rallies with his faithful. But he had never before put it all together in front of such a large audience as he did Tuesday night.

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Wisconsin GOP tries to stop Racing Sausages from promoting civic participation

The Wisconsin GOP sent a letter yesterday claiming that it would be improper “electioneering” and/or vote buying for MLB and the Brewers’ Racing Sausages to encourage early voting.

The legal citations in the letter seem … off.

The assertions with respect to campaign finance seem … at odds with the rather emphatic views of the Wisconsin GOP in particular on uninhibited election-related spending as a core component of free speech.

But I’m most baffled by the political calculation. Picking a losing legal fight with MLB and the Racing Sausages seems like an odd late-September strategy.

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“In Senate questionnaire, Barrett won’t pledge to recuse herself from 2020 election cases”

Politico:

President Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court did not commit to recusing herself from cases related to the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, according to her written responses to a Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire.

Amy Coney Barrett’s responses, obtained by POLITICO on Tuesday night, also provide a window into the breakneck pace at which the White House operated in the aftermath of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death, with Barrett revealing that Trump settled on her as his pick just three days after Ginsburg’s death.

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“Top Intelligence Official Releases Unverified, Previously Rejected Russia Information”

NYT:

President Trump’s top intelligence official on Tuesday released unverified information about the 2016 campaign that appeared to be a bid to help Mr. Trump politically and was said to be disclosed over the objections of career intelligence officials who were concerned that the material could be Russian disinformation.

The disclosures were the latest by John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence and previously an outspoken congressional ally of the president, that highlighted information that helped Mr. Trump but that critics have called distortions.

Mr. Ratcliffe sought to shore up the credibility of the material, which centered on claims about Hillary Clinton, saying that it was not a product of Russian disinformation after initially acknowledging that it could be. But his initial disclosure, coming hours before the first presidential debate, offered fresh ammunition for Mr. Trump to attack his political enemies.

In a letter to Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Ratcliffe laid out snippets of previously classified reports suggesting that Russian intelligence had acquired information that Mrs. Clinton had approved a plan for her 2016 campaign to “stir up a scandal” against Mr. Trump by tying him to the Russian hackers who had broken into Democratic servers.

Other officials — including Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel appointed by the Justice Department, and the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee — had evaluated and rejected the information in the years since, according to three current and former officials familiar with those inquiries.

An official familiar with the committee’s work said that Mr. Ratcliffe and Mr. Graham released it over the objections of other intelligence officials.

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“Project Veritas Video Was a ‘Coordinated Disinformation Campaign,’ Researchers Say”

NYT:

A deceptive video released on Sunday by the conservative activist James O’Keefe, which claimed through unidentified sources and with no verifiable evidence that Representative Ilhan Omar’s campaign had collected ballots illegally, was probably part of a coordinated disinformation effort, according to researchers at Stanford University and the University of Washington.

Mr. O’Keefe and his group, Project Veritas, appear to have made an abrupt decision to release the video sooner than planned after The New York Times published a sweeping investigation of President Trump’s taxes, the researchers said. They also noted that the timing and metadata of a Twitter post in which Mr. Trump’s son shared the video suggested that he might have known about it in advance.

Project Veritas had hyped the video on social media for several days before publishing it. In posts amplified by other prominent conservative accounts, Mr. O’Keefe teased what he said was evidence of voter fraud, and urged people to sign up at “ballot-harvesting.com” to receive the supposed evidence when it came out. (None of the material in the video actually proved voter fraud.)

Mr. O’Keefe’s promotional posts had said the video would be released on Monday, but Project Veritas released it on Sunday instead, a few hours after the publication of The Times’s investigation. The researchers concluded that this timing was unlikely to be a coincidence “given the huge marketing about a 9/28 release date,” they wrote in an analysis that Alex Stamos, who led the research team at the Stanford Internet Observatory, shared with The Times.

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“Trump Repeatedly Attacked Mail-In Voting During the Debate. There’s No Evidence Behind His Claim”

Time:

Trump’s rhetoric on the validity of the elections process was both lacking evidence and in stark contrast to how the issue is being judged in courtrooms across the country. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have filed a series of lawsuits in states that have expanded mail-in-voting — many as a result of the coronavirus pandemic — alleging that these new regulations are a blueprint for fraud and will undermine the integrity of the election system. This has largely been a losing battle. In crucial swing states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, the courts have ruled in favor of expanded access to mail-in voting.

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Another Must-Read from Republican Star Election Lawyer Ben Ginsberg: “How Trump’s evidence-free attacks on elections damage the Republican Party”

The WaPo oped concludes:

The great danger for the Republican Party is that the president’s claims will shine a spotlight on whether proof of widespread fraud exists to support their positions. Again, such proof doesn’t exist.

Rather than suffer a series of defeats, Republican lawyers should evaluate the evidence and settle some of those cases they joined reflexively to counter Democrats. As a general matter, Republicans are on the strongest ground in the cases in which they are arguing to uphold existing state laws against Democratic attempts to weaken protections. In such situations, the elected legislature and governor have made a policy judgment that should be respected. The Supreme Court has been reluctant to allow unelected judges to overturn elected officials’ decisions, especially close to elections.

But in other cases Republicans need to guard against having their arguments for preventing fraud look like efforts to stop groups from voting because they might not support the president. That more Democrats than Republicans seem to be getting ready to vote by mail makes the president’s rhetoric on mail-in ballots sound like a blatant attempt to stop non-supporters’ votes from being counted.

Then there is the question of what happens after Election Day, in particular to Republican candidates in tight races. Imagine a down-ballot Republican candidate clinging to a narrow lead in a state — especially a presidential battleground state — where Republicans are litigating, pre- or post-election, on the basis of fraud.

That Republican — picture Senate candidates in Georgia, North Carolina, Maine, Colorado, Arizona, Iowa or Montana who want to defend their leads — would have the added burden of explaining away Trump’s claims that the results are rigged or fraudulent. In such a situation the president’s words are certain to be used against those candidates.

The president’s absence of commitment to the peaceful transfer of power and his call to invalidate millions of mailed-in and absentee ballots are his latest actions painting the Republican Party into a dangerous corner. Granting his wish to disenfranchise millions of voters without evidence of widespread fraud would actually cause a “rigged” election and threaten a peaceful transfer of power. As when he urged his North Carolina supporters to vote both by mail and in-person, Trump would be the arsonist firefighter committing the crime about which he complains.

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“The battleground states that might count election results the slowest”

WaPo:

More than 1 million early votes have already been cast in the 2020 election, but in several battleground states, mail-in ballots will go virtually untouched until right before Election Day. This delay, which is dictated by state laws, could cause results to trickle in for some of the closest races nationwide.

The Bipartisan Policy Center recommends states allow processing of ballots to start at least seven days before the Election, on Oct. 27. Five states with competitive races for the presidency allow less time than that, with two — Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — not allowing ballots to be processed before Election Day.

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“Early surge of Democratic mail voting sparks worry inside GOP”

WaPo:

Democratic voters who have requested mail ballots — and returned them — greatly outnumber Republicans so far in key battleground states, causing alarm among GOP party leaders and strategists that President Trump’s attacks on mail voting could be hurting the party’s prospects to retain the White House and the Senate this year.

Of the more than 9 million voters who requested mail ballots through Monday in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Maine and Iowa, the five battleground states where such data is publicly available, 52 percent were Democrats. Twenty-eight percent were Republicans, and 20 percent were unaffiliated.

Additional internal Democratic and Republican Party data obtained by The Washington Post shows a similar trend in Ohio, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

Even more alarming to some Republicans, Democrats are also returning their ballots at higher rates than GOP voters in two of those states where that information is available: Florida and North Carolina.

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7th Circuit Panel (Including J. Easterbrook) Unanimously Upholds Extensions of Wisconsin Ballot Receipt Deadlines, Finding that Republican Party and Republican Legislature to Not Have Injury to Establish Article III Jurisdiction

Very interesting way that this case got resolved, and it does raise the question if there is anyone with standing to appeal given that Wisconsin’s executive branch is fine with this extension.

Observation from Marty Lederman:

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“Trump campaign tells elections boards across NC to ignore state guidance on absentee ballots”

WRAL:

County boards of elections across North Carolina on Tuesday started the process of determining which absentee ballots could be accepted for the general election and which needed further work by voters.

With record numbers of voters casting ballots by mail this election because of the pandemic – more than 278,000 ballots have already been mailed in, compared with fewer than 200,000 total in the 2016 election – the task is an arduous one that will last past Election Day. A battle between President Donald Trump’s campaign and state elections officials isn’t making it any easier, either.

The Trump campaign sent a letter to all Republicans on county election boards, urging them to disregard new state guidelines for absentee-by-mail ballots….

Judith Kelley, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and an international expert on election security, said it’s “absolutely not common” for a political campaign to instruct local election officials on which state rules to follow or not follow.

“I don’t recall a similar situation,” Kelley said, adding that the letter is the latest aspect of a national push by the Trump campaign to cast doubt on the outcome of the upcoming elections.

“It’s an effort to sow confusion and to undermine the confidence in the process,” she said. “We should all be able to unite around the process, and this is not – this is not helpful.”

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“Trump says poll watchers are being blocked from observing early voting in Philly. He’s wrong.”

Philly Inquirer:

President Donald Trump wrongly said Tuesday that poll watchers were being improperly blocked from observing the first day of in-person early voting in Philadelphia.

He made the false claims on Twitter, first retweeting his son Eric and then going further to accuse city officials of corruption. “Wow. Won’t let Poll Watchers & Security into Philadelphia Voting Places,” he said. “There is only one reason why. Corruption!!! Must have a fair Election.”

But there were several reasons — none is corruption — why elections staff did not allow members of the public to arbitrarily enter their offices. The Trump campaign has no poll watchers approved to work in Philadelphia at the moment. There are no actual polling places open in the city right now. And elections officials are following coronavirus safety regulations such as those limiting the number of people indoors.

It’s true that voters were casting ballots Tuesday, but the locations where they were doing this are satellite elections offices where mail ballots can be requested, completed, and submitted. Poll watchers don’t have the same rights at such locations as they do at traditional polling places on Election Day, officials said.

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